I've been known as one of the posters obsessed with United Airlines. Don't get me wrong, I still love United. But for all my travels home, I am flying American. Why? I'm a price sensitive student, and American offers the best fares for preferred schedules, as well a more economical way to upgrade than United in case I feel like splurging, since I am so spoiled from my non-rev days.
I am a Platinum with American through unconventional means, and through that status a complimentary Premier Executive on United and Gold Elite on America West. Should either of those ever offer the lower airfare with a desireable schedule, I can rely on supporting my home town and "friend" carrier or getting a complimentary upgrade, respectively. But for now the choice is the silverbird.
Friday, Oct 4
IND-ORD, American Eagle ERJ-140
Today was the second time it rained since school started. I appreciated that, since, along with all the other helpless out of state students going home, had to carry my baggage across campus to the shuttle pick up stop. I had to skip Physics because I couldn't risk missing my flight. My friend Trey skipped it as well; the bastard, I was relying on him to turn in my lecture quiz! Waiting at the shuttle stop was exciting. The bus would be full of students anxious to get home, and everyone was antsy. We all hated the notorious service of the "Limo" as they so inapporpriately name the cramped vehicle. It turned out my neighbor Matt was onboard too, it was kewl I would have a seat mate, and a seat mate that loved to talk about airlines too at that.
We managed to make it to Indy a little early. This made me happy cause there was a possibility of catching the 2:30 flight instead of the 4:30 flight, so I could have a 3 hour layover instead of a 1 hour layover. You think I'm crazy, don't you? But before you jump to conclusions, I only extended my layover so I could spot with trickijedi at O'Hare.
Being a savvy traveler, I whipped out my FF card and hopped right into the First Class checkin line at AA. I felt sorry for Matt and the other kids were met with long, almost stationary, lines. Especially Matt, who was taking Southwest. I love Southwest, but it really sucks if you have to check anything in with them because the lines are almost guaranteed to suck.
Earlier that morning, I got a glorious phone call saying my upgrade had cleared on my final leg, ORD-SFO. This pleased me very, very much. I had worried because this was a 767-300, which meant only 10 first class seats. I did not get my upgrade confirmed 72 hrs prior to departure, and as this was only the 2nd upgrade I had paid for in my life, the other one being confirmed comfortably at the 72 hr mark, it made me nervous. I desparately wanted to try out AA's sleeper seat (not Suite) and famous domestic F dinner service.
It was around 2:00 when I asked the agent at Indy to put me on standby for the 2:30 flight and she told me I probably wouldn't get on since it was pretty booked up. Also, it wouldn't leave until 3:30 because of the weather between Indy and Chicago. I asked if my elite status would help out, and sure enough, she said she didn't realize I was a Platinum. (Well, duh, I gave you my card to check-in!) She put me on the standby list, then gave me my confirmed boarding pass for the 4:30 flight, and my (yipee!) confirmed F seat, 3A, on the 767-300 home. This agent kind never told me I could have stood by for an even "earlier" flight.
When I made it to the gate, it turned out the 12:30 flight hadn't even left yet. They were calling people on the standby list. Frantically, I went up and asked if I could make it on as I was on the standby list for the 2:30. At first she was "too busy" for me, then I gave my AAdvantage card and she went right to work! I snagged the last seat on the ERJ.
Well it wasn't all shits and giggles from there. We ended up in about a half hour ground hold at Indy until the weather cleared up. It gave me the time to coordinate my rendez vous with Marlo. Also, I closely evaluated the ERJ and decided I like it over the CRJ. I enjoyed the bigger windows and more upgrade cabin walls. These AE planes have very smart interiors, and even the littlest detail, the fact that familiar "Fasten Seat Belt" placard on the tray table was printed in nice silver letters, made my impression more favorable. This baby smelled new. Even though the F/A told me "we have had them for a while", I knew her info wasn't up to snuff as AA only began receiving ERJ-140s in 2001.
Soon enough, we were in the beautiful G concourse at O'Hare! I managed to take this picture of Chicago on the 5-10 mile final to 27R.
I headed over to the United Concourses to meet Marlo. I stopped at the United Express F digs first to check out the new Red Carpet Club. It was a convenient location. I grabbed some iced tea and a banana. The room has a good view of Express ramp operations, and I got my chuckle of the day when an Air Wisconsin CRJ got confused and started pulling into a closed parking position, clearly indicated by orange cones. The marshaller over at the real parking position kept desparately trying to flag him over. Eventually, another marshaller from another gate ran over, and both ran to place themselves physically in front of the CRJ and put it back on the right track. I hope those Air Whiskey pilots didn't drink any of their nicknamesake, although they probably needed a drink after that real idiotic mistake.
Halfway throug the layover I met my latest airliners.net user in person. After clearing security with his "itinerary", Marlo was able to spot with me! I showed him the Red Carpet Club on the B concourse, with it amazing collection of stuffy old businessmen. We made a pit stop there, grabbing some Coke (yes, Coke can still be found with United, only on the ground!) and yakking about this and that. Then we headed over to my departure gate where Marlo was about to become deflowered by the AA terminal. While the mainline area doesn't compare to UA's Terminal for Tomorrow, I showed him how Eagle concourse G was leaps and bounds ahead of the F craptown. "Wait... this is for regional jets???" We made it over to the end of the K finger where my 767 was just starting to board. I said my c yas to Marlo and left him with a parting gift of two of my favorite airline novels.
ORD-SFO, 767-300 Luxury Liner
I am not used to pre boarding F since as a non-rev you sit down at the last minute. I think getting in last is kinda nice when you're in F or C, cause you avoid the hustle, and there is no problem with overhead bin space up front. Anyway, when I went to board the agent asked me how old I was. I told him 20. He congratulated me on my Platinum status. I smiled, as people in "Airline World" are always to surprised to see young elite level fliers, especially ones who inescapably look like students going home, usually the only ones to wear jeans and a t shirt in First Class. Unconventional means, baby, unconventional means. I remember being amazed at seeing a Premier Executive 7 year old commuter every weekend when I was a gate agent.
I wanted to pre board so I could snap some pics. AA's 767s have this unconventional wall paneling that is kind of psychedelic and totally does not go with the new, subdued interiors, but I like it anyways. Honestly, I am there in First to experience the seat and service, not because I like to be seen there. All the other folks in the cabin did the familiar "look forward with a expression of pleasure" as other passengers trudged by, watching them drink their pre-departure beverages, some frustrated that our large sleeper seats narrowed the aisle so much their rollers would scrape against the saides. I personally wish there could be a privacy screen. I knew I was getting looks as "the spoiled kid" sitting up front with all the suits. Well, my parents weren't paying much for this luxury as my ticket home was barely over $200 roundtrip (after taxes!) and I paid for the affordable upgrade myself. Pre boarding made me pretty uncomfortable, so I tried to avoid all eye contact with anyone and just started out the window. Right before pushback, I went back into the Business cabin (sold as coach, reserved for elite flyers) and got a blanket. One suit gave me a cold, hard stare, as he assumed I had wrongfully gotten an upgrade over him.
Neat little brochure in seatback pocket
Lots of seat features... bitchin' !!!
Extra feature, a great little cubby at my feet.
The service provided by the head FA, Susan, was stupendous as I stated in my title. She gaive equally great service to everyone, and did not treat me any different from everyone else. In fact, I would say she was more accomodating to me, as she would ask my obviously underrage student self if I kept needing refills for his Baileys with a big grin on her face!
She introduced herself and explained she intended to provide us with excellent service on the flight. She took the meal orders on the ground, starting from the rear of the cabin. United takes it according to status. This meant my seatmate and I got our first choice, which was the filet mignon. The dinner service was excellent and served in 3 courses without a tray.
I occupied myself with some of the 200+ Simpsons on my computer during the drawn out dinner. While they were fixing it up, we were given a hot towel and warm nuts. Wow! I was not used to having any hot towels, and only cold nuts, in domestic First on United, as well as everything on one tray.
Before and after delivering each plate, Susan would address us formally. It was so weird hearing "Mr. XXX" so much, but it was not awkward because of the sincere and pleasant way she delivered everything.
Notice the Olives *IN* the Salad
Some of the best meat I've had onboard
I still like United's cheesecake better, though.
After dinner, everyone staring sleeperizing their seats for the rest of the flight. I always like to test out other people's knowledge onboard, which is why I usually play ignorant and ask questions I already know the answers to. With my seatmate, a doctor from New York, I talked about the sleeper seats. "Wow," I said, "I didn't know they had nice first class seats like these on domestic flights." He explained, rightly, that he thinks it's because the plane just came from an international flight. However, I detected a fault in his knowledge when he said he might have been in the same exact plane from London. Not possible, I knew, because AA is running all 777 from ORD-LHR these days. Plus, he should have known the difference between the Suite and the "coffin" sleeper seat. With Susan, I asked her if it was true that these First class seats were being wiped out from the 767-300 flight. She said, rightly, that they were only installed within the last year and a half, but explained, wrongly, that it was her understanding that only the 767-200s would have F removed because they had older seats, when in fact the -200s are the only 767s retaining First class!
For the rest of the flight I, along with everyone else, napped in the flat configuration. What was surprising was that the seats are not as comfortable as they look. They are very nicely designed, with elegant details like a granite surfaced armrest stand, but are not that comfy. They actually didn't feel like they reclined completely to 180*. I thought it would be as flat and bed-like as the United First Suite, but no go in that department. It was still a great experience.
After landing, my gladness to be home was topped off my Susan's personal goodbye to each one in rows 1-3. She thanked us personally for flying American and told us it was her pleasure. Even as I deplaned she remembered me by name. "Goodbye, Mr. XXX" Wined and dined, yo!
Tuesday, October 8
SJC-ORD 737-800 N976AN
These flights were pretty uneventful. My first experience on the 737-800 left me with a good impression of the aircraft. I was on one of the newest ones in the AA fleet (del. Nov/01). During my all too short break, I got my upgrade right at the 72 hr mark, which was fine. Check in at SJC was a breeze (Self-Service) and my golf clubs made it through with no hassle. I enjoyed the very comfortable domestic F seats on the -800 (21" seat width and 40" pitch). It was nice being welcomed by the huge A*A logo on the fwd galley bulkhead as you entered the plane.
The breakfast service, however, was disappointing. I liked the breakfast services in United First better for domestic runs. I chose the pancakes and ended up with 3 mini pancakes, kind of like the cheap frozen ones in the store, with some sausage and potato slices on the side. I don't know if there was a warm cookie service because I slept for most of the way. Does anyone know if AA offers warm cookies on domestic breakfast flights in F? I thought I hard heard they offer the cookies for dessert during breakfast, and ice cream for dessert during lunch and dinner.
I think that will be my last upgrade in a long while. While it is pretty affordable when coupled with a cheap ticket like the ones I've been getting on AA, the food isn't THAT great (except on dinner flights), and MRTC is not that bad.
Well, that's it. An AA trip report from a long time UA flyer.